Tag Archives: Facebook

Too Social for a Social Network?

facebook morphs into faceblock for many

facebook morphs into faceblock for many -- Graphic by VP

In June, I was a neophyte to the popular site, facebook. Within a week, I was a facebook junkie. By the next week — as an eight-day block on posting replies began — I rapidly became jaded as I discovered I was too social for this social network.

I was not going to write about my facebook experience on here. I have stated my case time and again at facebook itself, and have contacted local media outlets (the Kansas City NBC affiliate is working on the story). Then Donna Harley, a fellow castaway on Blocked Island (1), sent me a link to an article and it got my blood boiling again.

In the July 6 article, “Andreessen: Facebook revenue to top $500 million in ’09,” Caroline McCarthy quotes the site’s founder as saying that while revenue will be above $500 million this year, he believes it could have been over $1 billion by now through more aggressive advertising sales (2). Within five years, Andreessen thinks the company will be a behemoth, earning well into the billions annually.

These are big numbers being tossed about. What is being lost amid all those dollar signs are the customers. What is being drowned out by the ring of the register is regular people just asking for help. What is being forgotten in the insatiable quest for more money is the reason for facebook’s existence in the first place — to serve as a forum for people to interact socially.

I comment frequently on the posts of my friends. If I think of something witty to say or to start a dialogue as I read through status updates, I type it. Because of that, I was blocked for allegedly “abusing” the system, without a warning of any kind. Just last week, I typed four replies and posted one birthday wish on a wall, and was given a warning for moving too fast and potentially being an “annoyance” to people.

I am not alone. I have found many users in the troubleshooting and help sections of facebook who are experiencing a similar problem. If you Google the query, “Facebook blocks and disables accounts,” you will receive more than 661,000 results. This is a large problem that has been hidden from, or avoided by, the mainstream media for too long.

I really believe my First Amendment rights are being violated. I know this is a private company, but it is meant to be a public forum. They have taken away my voice. They say they don’t want me to be an “annoyance” to people. Who are they to say that? If I am annoying people, they can remove me as their friend. That seems pretty simple to me.

As you can probably tell, I remain fired up about this. But, I am not just continuing the fight because of what has happened to me. I am truly upset that it still continues to be a problem for others.

I am upset for “Madi,” a former student of mine who just recently lost her mother. Naturally, she has had a great deal to say about this. Facebook thought otherwise and blocked her.

I am upset for “Jeanie,” my new British friend who lost a child last year after a heart transplant and now runs a support group using facebook. Facebook’s arbitrary system blocked her.

I am upset for Miles, my new Texas friend who is a youth pastor and utilizes facebook to keep in touch with the teenagers in his group. He was blocked.

I am upset for Donna, who just wants to share her love of Christ with friends from throughout the world. She was blocked.

I am upset for Nancy, who was “blocked for most of June for posting ‘too much,’ ‘too often,’ innocuous comments to friends and family” and “missed commenting on cousin’s birth of baby.” She “felt all alone, isolated, singled out for being social on a social network!”

I am upset for Debbie who was blocked for 15 days from May into June. In July, she also received warnings, which like me, she did not receive the first time.

“It seems almost impossible that one of the world’s largest social media networks can’t be bothered to tweak their system, their site and their rules,” Debbie said. “Would it really hurt to have a CUSTOMER SERVICE department?”

It seems facebook purposely makes it difficult to contact them. You can only do so in roundabout ways. They seldom respond.

Many people still do not get it when I tell them about what has happened to me and so many others. For them, I offer this closing analogy:

Imagine you are trying to make a phone call using AT&T and instead you get a message saying you have been using too many words to talk, and therefore, you are being blocked from speaking anymore. You will, however, be able to hear others and can leave voice-mail messages. The only thing you cannot do is actually communicate directly with others.

That is not a big deal, is it?  That would in no way upset you, would it? You would not feel like your rights were being violated, would you? You would in no way be offended if the message also said you may be an “annoyance” to people, right?

If you have stories to share about problems with facebook, feel free to share them here or at Blocked Island (1 — below). Thank you and have a wonderful day.

(1) http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=104131789520&ref=nf.#/group.php?gid=104131789520

(2) http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10280207-36.html

Invading the Final Moments of Life

When I saw the picture in the July 13 issue of Newsweek of Neda Soltani, the 16-year-old Iranian girl who was killed by a sniper in Tehran, I was going to write an article about how the media devotes so much more time to people considered “beautiful.” While I still believe that is true and fodder for a future article, I cannot write it now.

I cannot write it because now I have seen the video of her death. The video changes everything.

A video was shot of this young girl dying in the street, blood cascading out of her eyes and mouth. The images were so graphic, so devastating, so incredibly and deeply tragic. The father’s cries of anguish were traumatic and gut-wrenching. Chills coursed through my spine.

Yet, who am I to watch this macabre scene? Who I am to witness such a private and deeply personal moment? Who am I to see a video that never should have been shot and definitely should not have been plastered all over YouTube and Facebook for the entire world to see?

We are invading people’s lives. Cameras are so ubiquitous that we consider it normal now to see every moment of people’s lives, including their moment of death. Who are we to see these things? Why should we?

According to an article in the June 22 issue of the New York Daily News, the video was posted to Facebook by an Iranian living in Holland. He said he had received the video from a doctor in Tehran who had tried to help the girl. (1)

Did Neda’s family have any say in this? Did they want their daughter to become the face of a cause? Did they want their daughter’s final moments displayed on computer screens all over the world?

And, what is up with this alleged doctor? How was it possible for him to continue filming the video while “helping” her? What kind of help did he provide exactly as she took her last few breaths?

In just a matter of hours after the video was posted, Neda became a martyr to millions throughout the world. People rallied in major American and Iranian cities, crying out for justice. The world should condemn this atrocity, but the world did not have to see it so callously and graphically displayed. The world should not have seen the video of Neda’s death without the permission of her family.

As I read the article about Neda, I could not help but think of an article I read in the April 25 issue of Newsweek about Nikki Catsouras, an 18-year-old Orange County, Calif., girl, who was killed in a catastrophic car accident on Halloween, 2006. Her parents have been fighting a losing battle ever since the accident to have nine graphic photographs of their daughter’s dead body removed from the Internet. (2)

The photographs were taken by two highway patrolmen at the scene. These personal, graphic and grizzly pictures should never have made it on the web.

I’ll never forget a story my colleague, Gene Morris, told me when we used to work together at The Miami County Republic. I mentioned how all these gawkers were at the scene of a serious car accident, getting in the way of the emergency crews.

He said he was at the scene of a fatal crash and he watched a father walk his young son (Gene guessed he was six or seven) up as close as he could to see. When an emergency crew person told the man to get back, Gene heard him reply, “I just wanted my son to see what death looks like.” How disturbing is that?

When we see these graphic images of dead and dying people, we are being just like that father. We are invading someone else’s life. We become like viewers of the freak show of death.

I understand the urge to slow down at an accident. I understand the urge to want to see. Believe me, I do. I was reporter, so I understand the urge intensely. I want to know. I also understand the feeling of “there, but for the grace of God, go I” that we all get when we see a fatal event.

But, I also will never shake the memory of the first fatal accident I covered years ago. I will never forget it. I took the pictures of the twisted hunk of metal that used to be a car, thinking there was no one in it. It was so mangled, you could not tell. I went and stood by the car and lit a cigarette, a habit I had at the time.

It is only then, as I lit my cigarette, that I noticed the dress hanging out of the bottom of the driver’s door. My stomach heaved and bile surged into my throat. I saw the baby seats in the back of the car. I saw the videos and books for little children and I knew. I knew this was their mother right there. I knew her lifeless body was just three feet away from me.

I turned and rushed away. I never looked back. I never want to again.


(1) http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/06/21/2009-06-21_neda_young_girl_killed_in_iran.html (this is the news article…I advise against watching the video).

(2) http://www.newsweek.com/id/195073